Amid concerns over an aging population, it’s easy to ignore Minnesota’s under-20 population.

But the state’s young people are poised to change the face of Minnesota tremendously.

About 29 percent of people under age 20 are minorities, nearly double the rate for the state’s older residents, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates released today.

This wave of diversity among young people is also going to make Latinos the largest minority group in the state, a spot currently held by the black population.

Among those under the age of 20, Latinos currently outnumber all other minority groups, according to a Star Tribune analysis of the estimates. They make up nearly 9 percent of this age group. To put this in context, Latinos  account for 5 percent of the state’s overall population.

The robust youth of Latinos knocks down this population’s median age to 24, compared with a median of 42 for non-Latino whites and 38 for the population as a whole, according to the most recent American Community Survey data.

The newly released Census estimates also reaffirm ongoing trends – mainly that the state’s minority groups are growing every year due to people moving here from other states or other countries, plus births.

People of color are driving the state’s growth, acting as the engine behind more than 85 percent of its population increases this year, said Andi Egbert, assistant director of the Minnesota Demographic Center.

 

The state demographer's office estimates that nine percent of Minnesotans will be Latino by 2035, which would be a 70 percent increase in that population between now and then.

Not surprisingly, the most Latinos — by number — live in the metro area, with Hennepin County topping the list with more than 84,000 Latinos. About two-thirds of the Latino population lives in the metro area, versus one-third in outstate Minnesota.

But it’s the counties outside of the urban centers where this minority group’s impact is already being felt enormously.

Latinos are drawn to these rural communities by job opportunities, working primarily in manufacturing and the meat processing industry, said Mario Hernández, vice president and chief operating officer of the Latino Economic Development Center in Minneapolis.

“The number one reason [Latino] people come to Minnesota is because of work,” Hernández said. “ … They’re really changing the composition of these communities.”

A quarter of Minnesotans living in Nobles County and Watonwan County, for example, are now Latino. These regions in outstate Minnesota posted the most impressive population gains among Latinos recently, with the number of Latinos in rural counties — such as Mahnomen and Lake counties — almost doubling since 2010.

In some of these areas, overall populations are still decreasing, but the influx of Latinos has helped curb this decline.

“They’re bringing vitality to places that otherwise wouldn’t be experiencing growth,” Egbert said. “It results in a more vibrant main street, more workers in the labor force and more young people in communities that would otherwise skew older."